It struck me recently how often we are encouraged to reinvent ourselves, from makeover TV programmes, self-help books, even when changing career or starting a business.
The intention most of the time I think is in the right place – to help people become more confident, happier and make positive changes in their lives, but I’m not sure if the focus is entirely helpful.
The problem with reinventing yourself is that it suggests you have to be a different person, that there’s something wrong with who you are to begin with. And you end up looking to other people to define who you should be.
When I got married and had children, I didn’t realise I had quite strong preconceptions of what a wife and a mother ‘should be’, including standards like never shout, never let your kids down, always put them first (and answer to every beck and call) and never ever argue in front of the kids.
The problem with ‘never’ and ‘always’ is it demands perfection. Something that’s equally tempting and elusive.
Much of it was influenced by my mum, who I love dearly, and has the patience and temperance of turtle, which I did not inherit. Then there are friends who always seem to be in tune with their husbands and others who can play for hours with their kids without running out of ideas or enthusiasm.
And then there’s the myriad of opinions from society, media and random people in the supermarket. No wonder I had trouble twisting, pulling and squeezing myself to try and fit in.
It’s not that any of those traits are wrong as such. It’s just that the more you compare yourself to other people and try to fit into someone else’s shoes, the more you notice all the things that you’re not, and lose sight of who you are and what you’re brilliant at.
One of my early clients said that his biggest benefit from our coaching sessions was to rediscover who he was. Rather than learning how to be a different person, it was about being him, wholly and distinctively, in a whole host of different situations.
And the same goes for being in business too. The image of a business person being suited and booted, ruthlessly driven by profit and willing to sell their grandmother for the right price is quite frankly outdated and uninspiring. But so often, people starting up a business think they have to ‘become’ a particular kind of business owner.
They think that being professional means working certain hours, bending over backwards to please any customer and feeling awkward, apologetic or having to hide the fact that you have to do the school run at 3pm. They also think that you have to sell and market yourself in a particular way – “because that’s the way it’s done”.
But if you’re going to grow anything, it takes passion and persistence, and to put passion into anything takes something of yourself, something that’s essentially and uniquely you. Find ways of applying your character and strengths to achieve the results you want in your business. Do business in a way that really reflects your values and personality. And you’ll find that actually that’s how you create a brand that’s distinctive and a business that gets the best out of you and produces the kind of fruit you actually want.
So I may not be very good at hiding my emotions from my children (or anyone else for that matter) but I can certainly help them to understand theirs, and try and demonstrate how they can learn to deal with them. And what I lack in early morning appointment availability I’d like to think I more than make up for in delivering on my promises. Besides, if someone doesn’t share or respect my value of family, they’re hardly my ideal client anyway.
Maybe it’s not so much about reinventing yourself to fit in but about rediscovering yourself and redefining the role to fit you. What do you think?
Photo Credit: Kat.B.Photography on Flickr